Thursday, 09 August 2012
Rory McIlroy  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy kicked off the final Major of the year with a superb five under par 67 at Kiawah Island - helped rather than hindered by a spectator this time.

The thunderstorms of earlier in the week gave way to dry and boiling hot conditions for the start of the US PGA Championship and players took advantage on the course made famous by the "War on the Shore" Ryder Cup in 1991.

In last month's Open Championship at Royal Lytham McIlroy's hopes of a second Major title nosedived after he rebounded off a teenager's head out of bounds late on the first day.

On this occasion he hit a lady on the hip after badly pulling his tee shot to the dangerous short 17th - his eighth - but it came back into a nice lie in the sand only 25 feet from the flag.

From there the 23 year old Northern Irishman, already three under for the day, splashed out to six feet, saved his par and brought a cheer from the gallery by running back to give the fan the ball.

"It's becoming a habit hitting people at Majors, so I will try not to do that again," he said after picking up more shots on the second and sixth.

"I think that's my first bogey-free round in a while and it was a great way to start.

"I'm pretty comfortable on the course and only played nine holes on Monday and nine on Tuesday - I didn't feel I needed to play more.

"I'm expecting this to be the best day of the week (weather-wise), but it's hot and you just try to stay hydrated."

McIlroy's round put him in a share of second place one behind clubhouse leader Carl Pettersson, the Swede who became an American citizen earlier this year.

Dutchman Joost Luiten, who after an eagle and six birdies was clear of the field in his first ever Major in the United States, bogeyed his last four holes and had to settle for a 68.

Tiger Woods was another early starter and kept himself in the hunt with a 69, while Ian Poulter - keen to boost his chances of qualifying automatically for The Ryder Cup as well, of course, as landing a first Major - returned a 70.

Woods said: "Anything in the 60s is going to be a good start in a Major Championship. I'm right there.

"The wind kicked up a little bit and it changed things quite a bit and it's actually changed direction too.

"I probably lost a little bit of weight today - water weight - so just have to hydrate and recover.

Last year's Open champion Darren Clarke had a 73 that included just about everything from an eagle at the seventh to double bogey seven on the 11th.

World number one Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Justin Rose were among the later starters hoping the wind would not get up too much.

Harrington, winner in 2008 and needing something really special to get back into The Ryder Cup reckoning, eagled the second, but bogeyed the next.

Donald turned in a one under 31 and was alongside Harrington, McDowell, Rose and Paul Lawrie, but going even better was Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño. With five to play he stood four under and joint fourth.

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